Full Tang | The Angelica Interview | April 2011
During their second Vermont date in a row at Red Square in BVT, Full Tang takes the stage promptly at 9:00pm, their set time to play. They understand the nature of a bar gig, mainly that between now and their midnight end time, most people will be filtering in and out of the building. Every minute of playing is a chance to capture the ear of that fresh person just waltzing in to see what the fuss is about, and to stick around.
In their hometown, Boston, Full Tang doesn’t have to worry about this. They have a steady following and played The Toad so often that they were offered a residency at the brother spot, The Lizard Lounge. This means that the four-piece will be playing regularly, gaining an even richer following.
Props to Red Square, with a stage and acoustics not meant for anything more than a jazz trio, for at least offering to have good live performances on the small platform they call a stage. Still, Full Tang is beyond this. They have the potential to move festivals, should they get the chance.
By 9:15, a handful of people have already moved to the dance floor. There’s a synthy swirl to end the song, and then the next relies coolly on cowbell. Outside, February might be dipping well below freezing point, but Full Tang has somehow captured and Island feel, and I don’t mean reggae or calypso, per say, but that there’s a definite desire to be beneath a palm tree.
Up until now, Danilo Henriquez has been on drums, Adam Clark on bass, Ryan Dugre on guitar, and Eric Lane on keys. They all sing. They all write songs. They switch over, Danilo taking on bongos and trumpet while Adam sits at the kit. They bounce from hand percussion to sax, and to vocal harmonies, creating a groovy sound based in West African rhythms. They cover their favorite songs from Nigeria and Zimbabwe, do the Talking Heads, and revisit Ornette Coleman.
With only one short set break, Full Tang turns the bar from a quiet, after dinner drink spot into a dance hall. Feeling successful, the band makes a swift pack up and heads to their van in the alley, which was where I meet them for an exclusive interview with the group that has many opportunities ahead of them.
Is this your van, or did you rent it?
Danillo Henriquez: It’s Adam’s van. It’s pretty good for the touring thing.
Tell me about your West African influence.
Danilo: I’ve been to West Africa. We all used to play in an Afrobeat band called the Super Powers. We listened to a lot of Fela Kuti and started out hearing that stuff. We followed a trail from that, and got into music from all over Africa, but mostly West Africa.
Is that where those covers come from, years of following the trail?
Danilo: A lot of that stuff is from the 70’s and 80’s, like more pop.
Eric Lane: Virtually anything we can get our hands on, we try and digest aurally. We learn those parts and then, largely, our original tunes are based on those influences. Not denying our American rock roots, soul, and hip/hop.
Do you all write songs?
Danilo: It’s different for each song, for each person, and how they do it. I usually come in with some lyrics and some sort of weird guitar part that I twanged out, that’s not good at all, but it’s got this feeling we’re going for. The more we play them, we kind of learn what we’re trying to do with the song and it ends up coming to be something. Our process is what’s more important. We love to record, we want a record; we don’t have one yet. We have an EP. That was great for us, to make decisions and get it down.
How often do you guys work on music?
Danilo: We live together, so we try and do at least something every day. I mean, the hang is really important, just as important as playing- but we try and stay on our grind.
Do you have day jobs?
Danilo: A lot of teaching.
Ryan Dugre: We have some side projects, and teach three to four days. The weekend is for gigs, for the most part. We did a tour this past summer in Colorado and the South. It was two, maybe three weeks. For the most part, we play weekends.
We have a residency coming up in Boston, every Wednesday at The Lizard Lounge.
Are you all from Boston?
Ryan: No, we’re all spread out: Virginia, New York, Long Island, Colorado, Massachusetts.
How’d you all end up in Boston?